Friday, November 16, 2007

St. Margaret of Scotland

Today is the feast day of St. Margaret of Scotland. Here’s an excerpt from an account of her life.
Although Margaret was now in a great position, possessing what was in those days great wealth, she regarded herself merely as the steward of riches. She lived in the spirit of inward poverty, looking on nothing as her own but recognising that everything she possessed was to be used for the purposes of God. In this she is in the direct line of the saints.

The miracle is that the Scots, ever jealous of their liberties, accepted the reforms she introduced. It has been thought that the clan system of Scotland helped her, for the Scots were passionately devoted to their chiefs; once she had won their hearts, she had won her cause. And she herself was so simple and attractive that they felt her way must be a good way; nothing kindles response so quickly as dedication to a great cause. Her people had free access to her. There was a stone called St. Margaret's Stone near Dunfermline, on which tradition says she used to sit so that anyone in trouble might come to her. Her charity was unbounded; she thought of her poorest subjects before herself. Every morning "at the first hour of the day" (though she had already spent many hours in prayer and the saying of the Psalms) nine little orphans were brought to her. "When the little ones were carried to her, she did not think it beneath her to take them upon her knee and to get their pap ready for them and this she used to put into their mouths with the spoon which she herself used . . . The Queen did this act of charity for the sake of Christ, as one of Christ's servants."

It was also the custom at Dunfermline that any destitute poor should come every morning to "the royal hall"; when they were seated round it, then "the King and Queen entered ... With the exception of the chaplains and a few attendants, no one was permitted to be present at their alms deeds. The King on one side and the Queen on the other, waited on Christ in the person of His poor."

The daily observance is an allegory of Margaret's life; service of God and her fellowmen before service of self. Dr Skene, the eminent historian, gives this judgement on her character, "For purity of motives, for an earnest desire to benefit the people among whom her lot was cast, for a deep sense of religion and great personal piety, for the unselfish performance of whatever duty lay before her and for entire self-abnegation, she is unsurpassed." And he adds, "No more beautiful character has been recorded in history."

There’s more here. It occurs to me that a lot of what we do at our church is an attempt to live up to the good example of our patron.

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